The curse of knowledge and recognition

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Yesterday I wrote about the importance of noticing employees. One of the things I emphasized is the importance of not only noticing people, but actually letting them know that you noticed:

In order to be really unpredictable but also create an effective response to our rewards, we need to notice our employees.  And it is not enough to notice, it is also important to let them that you notice. Most business people will tell you that marketing is all about perception. The qualities of your product are not as important as how people perceive you r product. I think we should employ similar thinking to our employees. Noticing our employees is important but making sure that they know we are noticing them is just as important.

(And today I got some empirical evidence to back that up).

After writing this I kept on thinking about why do some managers notice their employees but don’t tell them that they noticed them. The answer came to me today while I was reading a chapter from Guy Kawasaki‘s book Reality Check called: The Sticking Point, where Kawasaki interviews Chip and Dan Heath, the writers of the book: Made to Stick. In the interview they mention a term I described in this blog before called the curse of knowledge. The curse of knowledge basically means that we have problems explaining things because we already know them, which make it hard for us to imagine how someone who does not know what we know sees it. This means we need to actively seek where our assumptions about the knowledge of other people are wrong.

And the same happens to us when we see an employee doing good work. We assume that the fact that we saw him and know what he did means that he knows that we saw him and knows what he did. What is the solution? Taking the opposite assumption. We need to assume that our employees never know that we noticed them. Then make it a priority to let them know that we did. Let’s overcome the curse of knowledge and starting noticing people.


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